BlogWalker

Muddling through the blogosphere

April 25, 2020
by blogwalker
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Redefining Resilience

Resilience: an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change. Merriam Webster 2020

Although I like the conciseness of Merriam Webster’s definition of resilience, I believe resilience often includes the ability to recover from more than misfortune. In the case of genocide, for instance, resilience requires the ability to recover from not only bad luck and an unhappy situation, but also the unthinkable, the unspeakable.

Two stories that meet my evolving definition of resilience stem from two separate events: the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide (which happened just 26 years ago, with nearly 1,000,000 people murdered over the course of 100 days).

The stories of Irving Roth and Carl Wilkens go beyond dealing with misfortune and adjusting easily.

The Holocaust

I first met Irving Roth in 2008, when I traveled to New York City to participate in the TOLI (The Olga Lengyel Institute of Holocaust Studies and Human Rights) Summer Institute. Over the course of two weeks, we (25 teachers) joined Holocaust survivors and scholars to think creatively and collaboratively about how to teach the Holocaust, genocide, and social justice issues.

Irving joined us at Olga’s table on Day 2 of the Institute. As he shared memories from his childhood, his experiences in Auschwitz, a “death march,” and his last days in Buchenwald, I wondered how did he do it? How did he survive unthinkable, unspeakable events and still find the strength, will, and even humor to move on and build a new life in America? Each time I listen to his interview, I stand in awe of Irving’s unwavering resilience. (Click on the image below to access Irving’s interview.)

Last week, I connected again with Irving, this time via a Zoom call, three days after his 90th birthday. Yes, he continues to redefine resilience, ending the session with a call to action. #NeverForget #NeverAgain.

Rwanda

The summer of 2016, I joined humanitarian Carl Wilkens on a life-changing trip to Rwanda. Carl was the only American to remain in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide. As we traveled across the country, visiting key sites and memorials and meeting with genocide survivors, we marveled at Rwandans’ ability to forgive and to rebuild their neighborhoods, communities, and country. We saw resilience redefined and at the forefront of everyday actions as such as village members coming together on a Saturday morning to work on a community project (gacaca) or the Rwandan men’s cycling team in training for upcoming competitions:

Thanks to Zoom, I’m able to reconnect with Carl and our fellow travelers for a weekly call. We are currently watching Ghosts of Rwanda as part of a collaborative discussion.

The film provides a timeline and a window into the genocide – including the role Carl played, remaining behind to help in any way he could, while the rest of the world turned a blind eye.

During our trip, we had the good fortune to have Johnson with us. Each day Johnson helped us step back in time to 1994, when as a 9-year old, he witnessed what no child should: the brutal murder of his mother and baby sister, slain by soldiers bearing machetes, as Johnson hid behind nearby bushes.

Thanks to the Gisimba Orphanage and a courageous act by Carl, Johnson survived the genocide, went on to complete his secondary schooling, as well as college, with a year spent at Texas Christian University. He now works for the Rwandan government, has married, and recently became a father.

Resilience

Like Irving Roth, Johnson and Carl do not define their lives based on the past (the unthinkable, the unspeakable), but rather on their ability to look to the future and to look for the good – and create it.

Drawing from their stories, I define resilience as: an ability to recover, over time, from misfortune, including the unthinkable/the unspeakable, by remembering and learning from the past while looking to and working towards the future.

#NeverAgain #NeverForget #Look4theGood #resilience

“Moving on is to forget; moving forward is to learn from.” Pastor Seraya, Rwanda 2016

 

February 17, 2008
by blogwalker
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At What Age Do We Introduce Students to “Genocide”?

I’m still reflecting on yesterday’s article in the Sac Bee about French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s controversial mandate that all 5th graders “adopt the memory of one of the 11,000 Jewish children in France killed in the Holocaust, learning about the selected child’s background and fate.” And following that article, today’s article on UC Davis students attending a conference to learn what they can do to stop the genocide in Darfur. These two projects involve students from ages 10 through adult. Is there a minimum age level for teaching about genocide?

The above articles are coming on the heels of a recent Teachers Teaching Teachers Skypecast during which someone in the chat room (Mr. Mayo?) introduced the Many Voices of Darfur blogging and wiki project, an invitation for students to make their voices heard to a worldwide audience.

darfurnavbar.jpg

Apparently, students as young as 3rd grade will be participating in this project and posting to the blog for 48 hours on March 4.

In my school district, I think many 5th grade teachers introduce the word “genocide” in 5th grade, as they delve into the unit on Columbus’s arrival to the “New World,” but without the availability of primary source documents such as those that tell of the last hours of individual Jewish children removed from Paris to extermination camps.

Last week I visited an elementary school library that happened to have on display 4th graders’ California Mission projects, including models (parent-done, I’m pretty sure) and some tri-fold displays (which also looked parent done). Kind of took me back to my 4th grade days. However, I’m still thinking about the tri-fold, I believe on Mission San Juan Capistrano, that included the statement “the local Indians were friendly and happy to work.” Maybe 4th graders are too young to learn about the government sanctioned genocide of California Indians, but I suspect that 4th graders at this school will end their year without a clue that “missionization” was NOT mutually beneficial.

But again I ask, at what age do we introduce students to “genocide”?

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